Summary: How do we deal with the issue of unanswered prayer?

The Rev. Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh

Senior Pastor

October 27, 2002

Habbakuk 1:1-13

1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.

2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.

4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

5 "Look at the nations and watch-- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.

7 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.

8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour;

9 they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.

10 They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them.

11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-- guilty men, whose own strength is their god."

12 O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.

13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?


I read a story once about a woman who was dying in a hospital bed. Her two daughters were by her side. All day one of the daughters had been praying vigorously and passionately. But when the family’s pastor came to the hospital room, one of the daughters whispered to him, "I just can’t seem to get my prayers past the ceiling."

How many times have we stood before a silent God and wondered why our prayers were not answered?

Why do our prayers go unanswered?

On September 11th, hundreds of men and women were trapped in planes and buildings praying that God would rescue them so that they might live. But they died.


A man finds his wife has cancer. He prays for healing, but it never comes. The cancer grows. The life fades. She dies.

Why were the prayers not answered?

Look at the Bible and you will find many times when prayers were answered. We remember these stories so well.

Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah.

Moses, standing before the Red Sea, prayed for Israel to cross over on dry land.

Hannah prayed for a son and the result was Samuel.

When Elijah prayed for a manifestation of God’s power, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.

We tend to forget, however, that there are many times in the Bible that prayer was left unanswered.

Once in a while we read in the Bible about those saints of God whose prayers simply didn’t seem to "didn’t get past the ceiling."

Moses begged God to let him lead his people into the Promised Land. Moses died on Mt. Nebo, his prayer refused.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that "thorn in the flesh." He never tells us exactly what that meant, but whatever it was, he prayed earnestly that it would be removed from his life. But it wasn’t. Instead, he was compelled to make the best of it for the rest of his life.

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered. Jesus cried out in the garden, “take this cup of suffering from me.” He prayed that he would not have to suffer death on the cross. Instead he had to suffer the pain of it.

The Bible is full of unanswered prayers.

In Habakkuk, we see such a prayer.

Habakkuk is one of the Twelve Prophets – the Minor Prophets. We’ve been looking at these books for the past few weeks, taking a different one each week.

As we look at Habakkuk, we find that he opens the book with a struggle over unanswered prayer. In verse two of chapter one, the prophet is pleading with God, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?”

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